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Abstract

Contemporary discussions of the problem of ugliness in Kant’s aesthetic theory have, to my knowledge, left unexplored the relation of disgust to ugliness. At most, they have explained away disgust as merely an extreme form of ugliness or displeasure, as Guyer did in his interpretation of ugliness in Kant’s aesthetic theory,[1] and by that strayed from the phenomenological and conceptual uniqueness of disgust in comparison to ugliness, while Kant, as I argue, did not. As a matter of fact, careful investigation of the concept of disgust in Kant’s writing will reveal the distinctive and multifaceted character that he ascribed to this phenomenon. By examining Kant’s treatment of disgust in comparison with more comprehensive contemporary studies given by phenomenologist Aurel Kolnai, psychologist Paul Rozin, and the social study of William Ian Miller, I will address the ways in which disgust can penetrate artistic representation without subverting it and, more closely, interrogate the role of disgust in contemporary art. Furthermore, within Kant’s aesthetic framework, I will suggest a theoretical difference between disgust and the concept of aesthetic ugliness.

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